15 FEBRUARY 2011


Egyptians are known for their sense of humour. Good times and bad times, anytime actually, inspires popular quips. Both President Nasser and Sadat sought to hear the latest jokes not merely for the fun of it but to gauge public sentiment. For example, when Nasser heard one indicating scarcity of rice in Cairo, he swiftly arranged for ample supply. Sadat sometimes recounted the jokes to his intimate friends, including a journalist who, obviously, kept them was off record. One story was that the President, who negotiated the Camp David Peace Agreement with Israel after a successful crossing of the Suez Canal in 1973, wanted to meet the man who created most of the sarcastic jokes. Promising him absolute safety, Sadat started checking with him one joke after another -- to which the man confessed. Sadat, astonished, wondered aloud: "But I am now a world leader, renown peacemaker and war hero, a most praised..." The jokester interrupted: "Mr. President, these jokes are not mine."

During their 18 days of demonstrating in Tahrir Square, angry rebellious Egyptians were also able to express themselves with some irony and sarcastic humour.

Here are some samples:

  1. Deposed Tunisian former President Ben Ali, now a refugee in Jeddah, sent a request to Saudi radio listeners choice program dedicating to Egyptian President Mubarak a song entitled: "Waiting for You."
  2. A poor Egyptian who could not find rice to eat in Cairo was advised to take a train to Alexandria where it is more available. However, the conductor suggested that he get off in Tanta, a hundred kilometers ahead because the waiting line started there.
  3. A man carried a poster telling Mubarak to leave already because his pregnant wife had to deliver and the new baby hated to arrive at Mubarak's time.
  4. "Leave. I need to take a shower."
  5. "If I don't get a shower at home today, I'll shower next week at the Presidential Palace."
  6. "Leave now" was written in Hieroglyphic, a language the very old Pharaoh will understand.
  7. "Stay where you are. We're coming to get you."
  8. A repeated quip about Mubarak being told that the people were saying "Good-bye" to him and he wondered, "Why, where are they going?"
  9. Mubarak lookalike carried a placard: "Change the People."
  10. Ben Ali was puzzled how a Tunisian shoe salesman instantly guessed his boot size when he wanted to get a new pair on his flight out. The salesman explained: "How could I not know? It's been on my neck for 23 years."
  11. A fortune teller reading Mubarak's palm informed him: "You are about to embark on a long voyage."
  12. When one of the most detested cronies of Gamal Mubarak, Ahmed Ezz, was asked how he had accumulated a huge fortune, he replied: "By the grace of God." Satan intervened: "What an ungrateful S.O.B."
  13. Evaluating his chances for staying, the President was told not to worry. "We have 300 Baltagiah (thugs), 200 camels, and 400 donkeys ready."
  14. "Bye Bye Husni...we'll text message you, wherever you go."
  15. The outgoing President was spotted trying to flee through an illicit tunnel to Gaza.
  16. VIP lounge sign that said "Government members only" was replaced by one that said: "Suspects only."
  17. "Take our money, but go away."
  18. "We are the People...Who are You?"